Cannes Film Festival: Reviews Round-up

BERNICE TANG
May 22, 2010
*Special to asia!

Here’s a round-up of some of the reviews of the Asian movies competing at Cannes.

RIZHAO CHONGQING (CHONGQING BLUES)
Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai
Country: China

 

Measured and engrossing – Guardian

Like many Chinese films being made today, “Chongqing Blues” desperately needs to find international audiences; its focus on dislocation — both physical and mental — and its melancholic textures aren’t in demand back home. With barely a false note, and a quietly absorbing lead performance…this is a slow-burning gem. – The UK Telegraph

"Chongqing Blues" represents no notable artistic leap in Sixth Generation filmmaker Wang Xiaoshuai's repertoire. Flowing with the same pensive, heavy cadence of the river that visually and metaphorically dominates the film, it is an old style exploration of the new face of China through an itinerant father's return to the titular city to make sense of his son's death after abandoning his family for 15 years.

It may be solidly directed with Bressonian detachment and anchored by an absorbing performance by lead actor Wang Xueqi, but it is neither outstanding nor revelatory enough to play outside of a cluster of European art house cinemas. – Hollywood Reporter

An irreparable father-son bond triggers a study in bleak cityscapes and pervasive intergenerational malaise in "Chongqing Blues". Initially as glum as its title would suggest, Wang Xiaoshuai's poignant if plodding ninth feature -- which follows an absentee father trying to glean information about the dead son he never knew -- eventually opens up with a handful of quietly affecting moments, but elsewhere bogs down in psychodramatic flashbacks that ultimately sentimentalize as much as they clarify. Respectable fest run looks assured for a downbeat drama that won't do much to widen the Chinese helmer's commercial following offshore. – Variety

 

LUNG BOONMEE RALUEK CHAT (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives)
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Country: Thailand

 

At last, in what has been a rather tepid Competition year at Cannes, a film to inspire: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, is a fabulous weave of magic… A film about what it means to take care of others, and of the importance of caring and of being cared for... To watch it is to feel many things – balmed, seduced, amused, mystified. – The UK Telegraph

“Uncle Boonmee” replicates that weirdness with a melding of poetic and comic forces, yielding an experience defined by sheer ingenuity… Weerasethakul deals with folklore, memory and death in a wonderfully playful manner that’s moderately accessible and cryptic at the same time. Guided by forces as otherworldly as his plot, the filmmaker turns narrative confusion into his greatest conceit. – Indiewire

 

OUTRAGE
Directed by Takeshi Kitano
Country: Japan

 

As violent, amoral and misanthropic as a Jacobean play, "Outrage" is Takeshi Kitano's best film in a decade. Cleansed of his pretentious navel-gazing in recent years, it burst with the direct cinematic power of his early works ("A Violent Cop," "Sonatine"), though his style is less minimalist and characters less taciturn. In fact, his representation of internecine gang rivalry and imploding power structure stands up to Kinji Fukasaku's seminal "Battle Without Honor" series in complexity and unsentimental attitude, with humor as mean and dry as a straight-up martini. – Hollywood Reporter

The results are so visually stunning, why quibble... A beautifully staged marvel that confidently reasserts Kitano's considerable cinematic gifts. – Variety

For festival-goers squeamish about violence, Outrage, by, Japanese legend Takeshi Kitano, seriously tested their resolve... The opening scenes, showing the yakuzas' stately summits and the elaborate rituals of respect, concealing paranoid and psychopathic disloyalty and rage, are tremendous. But then the yuckiness begins, and I watched from between my fingers. – Guardian

 

THE HOUSEMAID
Directed by Im Sangsoo
Country: South Korea

 

An operatic, sensuous social satire that dares to be different from the original classic. – Hollywood Reporter

Sleekly controlled and very black, it fizzles out in the last stretch, but for sheer entertainment – and for putting the satirical knife into the super-wealthy – it's very good value. – UK Independent

Im's remake is a big, brassy suspense thriller set in the household of an arrogant, super-rich businessman; his house, specially built for the film, is reportedly the most expensive set in the history of the country's cinema. The film conceives the maid, played by Jeon Do-yeon, as a far more sympathetic, ambiguous character; a woman who is sexually exploited by her boss, but who appears to be consenting in their affair. The final scenes are arguably a little too melodramatic, but this was a sleek and watchable picture. — Guardian

 

 

caddy lee

A former financial and business journalist, Bernice Tang's other areas of interest include China, literature and the arts.